07:03 PDA Bulletin 08 Defense Budget & End Strength Boost Get Poor Grades
- "Experts give poor grades to expected '08 defense budget"
by Bipasha Ray, Project on Defense Alternatives
from Defense Analysis Bulletin #2, 01 February 2007
Washington, DC -- The expected $470 billion defense budget for fiscal
2008 to be released Feb. 5 will fall short of requirements, yet
continue to be packed with pork despite recent reforms, according to
defense experts at a briefing on Thursday.
In the FY 2008 Defense Budget Report Card
( http://www.comw.org/pda/0701dab2.html#reportcard ) released by the
Security Policy Working Group, four analysts gave the government low
and failing grades on every criterion except for an "A+" in
advertising -- for the Pentagon managing to convince Congress that the
world's largest defense budget is too small.
"We have the largest Pentagon budget since World War II, but we are
losing to an opponent in Iraq that spends less over an entire year
than what we spend in one day" on defense -- more than $1 billion,
said Winslow Wheeler of the Center for Defense Information.
( http://www.comw.org/pda/fulltext/0701wheeler.ppt )
He gave Congress an "F" for "total failure to reform" despite all its
talk of reform. Congress exempted the defense budget from earmark
reforms, he said, and actually ensured "free advertising for porkers"
by letting the authors give the required explanations for earmarks,
rather than objective bodies such as the Government Accountability
Office or the Congressional Budget Office.
The other experts -- Carl Conetta of the Project on Defense
Alternatives, Steve Kosiak of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary
Assessments and Cindy Williams of MIT's Security Studies Program --
said that, judging from the past, they expected the emergency
supplemental requests for the global war on terror to incorporate
numerous items not directly related to war, including modernization
and transformation, that actually belong in the Pentagon's baseline
The baseline Defense Department budget is expected to be $470 billion.
With supplementals added on for the war on terrorism including Iraq
and Afghanistan as well as other weapons expenses, the total military
spending budget is expected to be $610 billion.
"Both the administration and the armed services have incentive to put
things in the requests for GWOT funding, whether it is related to war
or not. It sounds better politically, it has that emergency ring to
it," Kosiak said. "If you can attach something to a bill that deals
with troop pay and armor, it will have smoother sailing."
( http://www.comw.org/pda/fulltext/0701kosiak.pdf )
At the same time, the administration is being unrealistic in its
projection of defense spending and its budget will probably fail to
acknowledge $30 billion worth of war costs and support of military and
personnel -- which will contribute to a $1 trillion cumulative gap in
the Future Years Defense Program for 2008 to 2013, Williams said.
"The Defense Department has a history of pushing substantial amounts
of realistic expenses off to the future, hoping that it will figure
out how to deal with it later. This is not a good idea at a time when
the baby boomers are preparing to retire, federal deficits are high
and debt is mounting," Williams said. "By not recognizing the costs,
we're making decisions today that will lead to expenses in the future,
but we're not planning how we'll pay them."
A realistic defense budget -- 5 percent of GDP, rather than the
expected proposal of 4 percent -- would not be affordable given
America's current level of debt and looming costs of Medicare and
Social Security, Williams said. However, the government needs to
acknowledge the missing $1 trillion on its 5-year budget before the
country can decide how it's going to pay for it -- whether by raising
taxes, cutting back on retirement benefits or borrowing more, she
added. ( http://www.comw.org/pda/fulltext/0701williams.doc )
She also criticized the government's lack of transparency in releasing
the true war costs, which leaves analysts and congressional oversight
committees "working in the dark."
Conetta, who just released a report, "No Good Reason to Boost Army,
Marine Corps End Strength," said that the proposed addition of 92,000
personnel would do nothing to solve the more immediate problems of
troop readiness and shortages that the United States is facing in Iraq
and Afghanistan. ( http://www.comw.org/pda/0701br20.html )
"These initiatives would only bear fruit in 2009 at the earliest and
they only make sense if we intend to stay in Iraq for years to come,"
he said, adding that the government has learned the wrong lessons from
Iraq and it is taking the country down the wrong path of "coercive
nation-building and regime change."
"Just as the troop surge [in Iraq] is an alternative to seeking a
diplomatic solution, this proposed addition to end strength is a
counter point to a new direction," he said. "We need to engage the
lessons of Iraq. Trying to positively transform foreign societies by
outside military intervention hasn't worked before and won't work now."
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"No Good Reason to 'Grow' the US Army and Marine Corps"
by Carl Conetta
President Bush's proposal to add 92,000 troops to the Army and Marine
Corps has a degree of bipartisan appeal. Advocates may believe that
America's troubles in Iraq provide reason enough to "grow" the Army
and Marine Corps. But this view misconstrues both the lessons of that
war and America's true security needs.
What has been lacking in recent years is strategic wisdom, not
military personnel. Any perceived shortfall in the latter derives from
the former. It would be better to correct the error, than feed it more
boots. Indeed, correcting it would obviate any apparent need to boost
Army and Marine Corps end strength.
Certainly, boosting the Army and Marine Corps has a political utility
for the President and his opponents, alike. But no one seriously
contends that the initiative will relieve the stress of current Iraq
deployments. Nor will it ease the strain of shipping additional troops
to that country, as the President proposes. This, because any
additions to Army and Marine Corps end strength must come in small
increments, and it takes time to build new units. There will be no
significant effect at all before 2009.
Looking down the road: the proposed additions to end strength will
combine with other initiatives to dramatically increase America's
capacity to sustain protracted ground operations overseas. The other
relevant initiatives include the administration's Integrated Global
Presence and Basing Strategy and various reforms aiming to increase
the proportion of military personnel available for operational duties.
Taken together these efforts eventually would allow the United States
to comfortably deploy on a continuous basis more than 100,000 ground
troops outside Europe, Japan, and Korea while the latter locations
absorb more than another 60,000 troops.
There is no manifest need for such a capability unless: (1) The United
States maintains a large contingent of troops inside Iraq
indefinitely, or (2) the nation aims to routinely and continuously
involve 100,000 or more ground troops in regime change, foreign
occupation, "nation-building", counter-insurgency, and/or stability
The prospect of a long-term US troop presence in Iraq is not an idle
one. Although proposals for beginning withdrawal have now become
commonplace in Congress, few advocates talk about total withdrawal
anytime soon if at all.
Increasing Army and Marine Corps end strength will enable the United
States to "stay the course" charted by the Bush administration in Iraq
and elsewhere indefinitely. Much as the proposed Iraq "troop surge"
serves to counter a diplomatic solution to the Iraqi impasse, the
proposed increase in Army and Marine Corps end strength serves as an
alternative to setting a new course at the level of national security
Is "not enough boots on the ground" the chief lesson to learn from the
Iraq debacle? A more critical view is that the administration's chief
failure resides not at the level of war planning, but at the level of
national security strategy. The failure involves misapplying and
over-relying on military instruments. It rests on the mistaken belief
that the type of enterprise represented by the Iraq war forceful
regime change and coercive nation-building is necessary to our
security and practicable. This belief is a fount of unrealistic goals
and impossible missions.
Minimally, the nation and its armed forces deserve an open and
thorough debate on the strategic lessons of the Iraq misadventure
before we start ramping up the nation's capacity to put more boots on
the ground worldwide. To foreclose this debate for reasons of
political expediency is to add insult to tragedy.
Carl Conetta is co-director of the Project on Defense
Alternatives(PDA). More details of the troop buildup and the
analytical basis of this piece can be found in PDA Briefing Report #20